Spanish doctors recruited at Neath Port Talbot Hospital
DOCTORS have been recruited in Spain to help keep services running at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.
Health chiefs admit it is taking a lot of time and energy to maintain trained doctor coverage at the hospital, which lost its acute medicine service last year.
That led to emergency medical patients from the Neath Port Talbot area being seen in Swansea or Bridgend hospitals, where staff were also transferred to cope with the extra workload.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board has now published the findings of a review of last summer's urgent service change. One issue that has been flagged up in the review is staffing.
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ABMU says the sustainability of the new service model relies on Neath Port Talbot Hospital's ability to recruit non-training grade doctors. These had to be of sufficient seniority to take responsibility for the hospital out of hours.
Chief operating officer Alex Howells said: "This has necessitated in an additional recruitment drive since the service change, with up to three additional doctors expected to arrive shortly from the recent Spanish recruitment exercise.
"Nurse practitioners are also playing an increasingly pivotal role."
Mrs Howells said staffing continued to be something that took a lot of time and energy to maintain. As well as recruiting in Spain, she said, the board continued to advertise clinical fellowship and locum positions.
"That isn't coming easily or automatically. It's something we need to look at in Changing For The Better," she said.
"It's still a challenge for us to recruit to fill these vacancies, and the board needs to be aware of that."
The review found that, by and large, the flow of emergency medical patients to Singleton, Morriston and Princess of Wales hospitals had been in line with assumptions.
However, there were daily fluctuations in numbers, which meant additional work was required in the Swansea and Bridgend hospitals to allow them to respond to this.
Some changes to Neath Port Talbot's cardiac arrest team will also be made, along with a drive to get more patients to attend the minor injuries unit at night.
Mrs Howells added: "There has been significant co-operation from staff on all sites in achieving progress to date."